Title: We Need to Talk About Morgana 
Pairing/s: None (this part)
Character/s: Arthur, Morgana, Gwaine, Gwen
Summary: Morgana can't resist the chance to interfere. Merlin would rather be left alone. And Arthur – well, Arthur doesn't know if he's making things better or worse, but it's not for lack of trying.
[ Prequel | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | AO3 ]
Warnings: None (this part)
Word Count: 1200w
Prompt: 333 Eerie and 334 Apparition
Author's Notes: I missed last week due to being horrendously busy, so I decided to incorporate that prompt here as well :)
Arthur spends the rest of the day putting their plan into action. Since the goal is for him to make Gwen’s company seem like an unmissable opportunity, he is careful to ‘let slip’ a few pertinent details in front of each of their suspects, hoping to lure them into seeking out further information. It’s not exactly a challenging job—pretty much everyone is curious after Gwen’s less-than-subtle appearance earlier—but he still finds himself with the beginnings of a headache by the time he’s finished, his temples pounding as he tries to keep all the lies straight inside his head. He has no idea how people manage to do this kind of thing on a regular basis; being a spy is kind of hard.
“How will you know who’s responsible, though?” Gwen had asked, when Arthur and Gwaine went through that part of the plan with her. “I mean, don’t they all have access to the same server?”
“Technically, yes,” Arthur admitted. “But the innocent parties should have no reason to access the file, even though they have the requisite clearance. They’ll all have slightly different information about the company, and whoever leaks the data to Essetir will likely tell them as much about your background as they can, so that plus the server log should help us determine which one is our culprit.”
“Sounds a bit flimsy to me,” Gwen said, but when Arthur frowned at her she held up her hands in defeat. “I’m not saying I won’t do it! I’m just saying, you’re relying an awful lot on luck at this point. Don’t be surprised if it turns out to be more difficult than you think.”
“We’re not trying to convict someone beyond reasonable doubt,” Gwaine said, clapping Arthur on the shoulder and ignoring the resultant scowl. “With luck, we’ll be able to convince His Royal Douchiness that Merlin is innocent and get the real mole fired, which is pretty much all we’re aiming for here.”
Arthur had agreed with him at the time, albeit against his better judgment, but now that the operation is actually underway he can’t help feeling anxious. What if his performance hadn’t been convincing enough? What if there’s something wrong with the file Gwen put together, or an error on the website that could give them away? Gwaine had assured him Gwen was the best and could pull off something like this in her sleep, but even professionals make mistakes, and Arthur isn’t sure he’s comfortable risking Merlin’s entire future—not to mention his reputation and possibly his spotless criminal record—on a plan that is starting to feel progressively half-baked. At least he’ll have Gwaine to blame if it all goes wrong.
By the time he has finished laying the groundwork, it’s almost mid-afternoon, and Arthur heads back to his office in the hopes of getting some actual work done over the remainder of the day. It’s easier said than done, however, and he soon finds himself drumming his fingers on his desktop as he refreshes the bogus website for the thousandth time. For a moment, his heart jumps as he sees that the hit counter has increased—then he realises that it’s probably because he’s been visiting it so often. He sighs. He’s known from the beginning that the plan will take time to come off, if indeed it does at all, yet here he is poring over the damn thing like the trap could be sprung at any moment. It’s getting ridiculous.
He’s just decided that he needs to find a distraction—preferably before he goes completely insane—when he catches sight of his sister’s reflection in the monitor, her pale face looming up behind him like an apparition. Her hand closes on his shoulder a moment later, making him jump half out of his skin.
“Jesus Christ, Morgana, learn to knock,” Arthur blurts, swearing loudly. He hurriedly closes the window on his desktop before she can see what he’s been looking at. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Why, were you looking at porn again?” Smiling sunnily, Morgana squeezes his shoulder before letting go and settling herself in the seat opposite, adjusting the hem of her skirt as she sits down. “I suppose you have to do something now that Merlin isn’t around for you to harass. Although—”
“Don’t even start,” Arthur says firmly, pointing a finger at his sister. “I do not harass my assistants, especially not Merlin, and for the last time, that wasn’t porn. It was a pop-up ad.”
“If you say so.” Morgana’s eyebrows are arched, and he can practically see her weighing up whether to pursue this uncharacteristic behaviour or return to whatever it was she had come in for. Arthur makes the decision for her.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” he asks, turning away to fiddle with some of the folders on his desk. He’d stolen them from the filing cabinet while George wasn’t looking, and fully intends to put them back in the wrong order as soon as his assistant is in the lavatory. “I thought you and Morgause were playing hooky this afternoon. Didn’t you say something about a sale at Harrods…?”
“Funny, but no.” Morgana rolls her eyes, although there’s something unsettled about her expression as she goes on. “She had to leave early, and I had a brother to interrogate.” She crosses her legs and leans back, steepling her hands in her lap and looking at him expectantly. “So? Guinevere Smith? Morgause has never heard of her, and I thought she knew all of Vivian Alined’s friends.”
Shit. Arthur hadn’t been expecting that. “Well…” he hedges, wondering whether to come clean or double down on the lie. Morgana eyes him narrowly.
“She’s not Vivian’s friend at all, is she?” she asks, her gaze shrewd, and Arthur curses under his breath. It’s actually kind of eerie the way she can read his mind.
“All right, fine,” he says, deciding he’s just going to have to wing it. “She’s more like…an acquaintance. Actually, they hate each other.”
“Ha! I knew it,” Morgana crows, shaking her head. “She didn’t seem like the Princess Barbie type, deep down. So, how did she end up coming here, then? I can’t imagine Alined recommended us to her if his precious Vivi hates her so much.”
“It was actually pure coincidence,” Arthur says, shrugging his shoulders. “She overheard her father talking about us with one of his business partners, so she thought she’d come to us first. I thought passing her off as one of Vivian’s friends might quell some of the gossip. I didn’t want the word to get around.”
It’s a flimsy lie, but it’s the best he can do at short notice, and fortunately she seems to buy it. He fields the rest of her questions as best he can, promising to send her a copy of the finalised contract in a few weeks. He won’t, of course, since hopefully by that time there will be no need, but it’s his job to bait the hook and technically Morgana is on their list of suspects.
Now all he has to do is wait for one of them to bite.